Don't Let Stanley "Tookie" Williams Die

To California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

In the state of California, there are many wonderful people and accomplishments to commemorate and honor. But we are also a state rife with conflict, pain, and trauma. We need to be about healing and reconciliation. We need leadership that can help this state get through some of the terrible violence and sorrow we've had to deal with over the past thirty years.

There is too much death, too much hate, too much fear, too much trivializing "justice" by using it for revenge. Stanley "Tookie" Williams has done more to save lives these past few years then most people who are not in jail. He made many mistakes (although he contends he's innocent of the murders he was convicted of--something I don't think should be taken lightly). But what he has done to redeem his life, to make some value of his mistakes, is noteworthy as an example for anyone who may also be faced with such choices: we need more people to stand up and do the right thing.

And former gang members can reach present gang youth better than anyone--if we have examples of any who do, we should not diminish the power of such examples.

I am a former gang member, author of the best-selling memoir, Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster). I know the importance of reflecting on and assessing one's life--and helping others do the same. I know the importance of rehabilitation and then allowing people to help others when they can.

Official revenge (which much of the death penalty is about) should not be sanctioned any longer. You cannot make right the murder of others by murdering the so-called culprits by so-called legal means. It only continues the cycle, the pain, the hate.

I ask of you to be as human as we want the most inhumane person to be. Our callousness as a community, a society, a state, contributes to the callousness in our streets. We need to feel. We need to care. We need to differentiate ourselves from the very real murders that destroys whole families and often communities. We need to be the more conflicted, complicated, and caring of all.

Please don't let Stanley "Tookie" Williams be killed on December 13, 2005. Please stand above the politics and pressures to not care, to not feel, to "be tough." We don't need no more tough guys (they're in our streets, in our culture, in our homes). We need the complicated but difficult humane response.

Tough enough to care, not to kill. Thank you for reading this.


Luis J. Rodriguez

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